Tea party etiquette and good table manners do matter at any occasion, but a tea party is the perfect occasion to teach everyone about proper etiquette. Here are a few etiquette rules to pass around to children and friends:
There is an order in which tea party foods are to be eaten. First, scones or muffins, then sandwiches, and lastly, sweets.
Take small bites. Never stuff the whole sandwich or dessert in your mouth even though it seems small enough.
Do not dine with gloves on.
When seated at a table, raise only the teacup to drink, not the saucer. Place the teacup gently back on the saucer. If you are not seated at a table, simply hold the saucer in your lap with your left hand and raise the teacup with your right hand. Return the cup to the saucer between sips. Everyone will notice that you are using proper tea party etiquette.
Never dip a scone in jam or cream. Pretend it is a dinner roll. Break off bite size pieces and add the jam or cream in your own plate. Scones are not to be eaten with a fork.
If serving on a 3-tiered server, place the scones on the top tier, savories and sandwiches on the middle tier, and desserts on the bottom.
Never sip or slurp tea.
Place all forks or spoons on their corresponding plates. Never lay a serving utensil on the tablecloth or table.
Be sure to unfold your napkin and place it in your lap. Leave your napkin on the chair, not the table, if you must leave the table.
Practice these before going to a tea party, especially with children. You will be surprised how much they will enjoy knowing the rules of tea party etiquette.
Tea Party Etiquette
A tea party can be and is usually an elegant affair. That is why napkin etiquette is as important for your tea party as it is for a formal dinner.
As each guest arrives, they will be seated and politely wait for other guests to arrive and also be seated. Once all the guests have arrived, the hostess will be seated. At that time, she will remove the napkin from the table and place it on her lap.
When you have finished with your tea and meal, you should place your napkin to the right of the plate on the table. If for some reason you need to leave the table, you should place your napkin on your seat until you return.
When the tea party is over, the hostess will place her napkin on the table. At that time you should fold your napkin in half or quarters and neatly place it on the table. It does not need to be folded as neatly as the way that you found it at the beginning of the tea but it should not crumpled or balled up either.
**If your tea is formal you should use cloth napkins. Elegant paper napkins are fine for less formal tea parties.
Smoking or Non-Smoking?
Cancer, including lung cancer, has now surpassed cardiovascular disease as the number one cause of death in the Unites States today. With such a glaring fact, do you allow smoking at your tea party even if you smoke yourself?
If you don’t allow smoking, clarify in your invitation that smoking is allowed only on your outdoor deck or patio. If you do allow smoking, be aware that guests may be highly offended because they know that second-hand smoke can affect their health and because their clothes can also smell of smoke.
What do you do if you ask guests not to smoke and one lights a cigarette anyway? Perhaps a true story best epitomizes how to use humor to handle the situation. In the middle of an airplane flight, a smoker lit a cigarette in a non-smoking section. The savvy flight attendant sweetly asked the gentlemen, “Sir, do you care to step outside while you finish your cigarette?”
If you’ve asked guests to smoke outside, but find that they smoke inside anyway, you could use humor in a similar manner by saying something like, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but we do have a smoking section just for “first class” guests — but it is on the deck. I wanted to show you my deck anyway, will you come with me to show it to you now?” As the host or hostess, for the sake of your guests, you are responsible for taking action to enforce “party rules.” Fortunately, humor and a smile can defuse the ashes of even the smokiest of situations.
Do You Invite Pets to Your Tea Party?
As much as you love your adorable pets, guests at your tea party may not like animals. When you invite your guests, notifying them that a cat or dog in lives in your residence is appropriate. Guests who are allergic to them need to know so they can choose whether or not to attend.
The next decision is whether you allow your cat or dog in the same room with your guests during your tea party. What is acceptable pet behavior to you may not be acceptable to your guests. You may never know when your pet brushes against expensive clothing or may lick, nuzzle, or rub a nose against
an unsuspecting guest.
Keeping your pets outside or in another room behind a closed door will avoid your pet rubbing against an unsuspecting guest. You may also want to remove from sight any birds, hamsters, or other animals in a cage that may have any strong odor. Fish in a bowl or tank without a bad odor are not as
likely to be a cause for concern.
One of the most polite things you can do for your guests is to make them comfortable and provide a memorable party – which means avoiding any discomfort from your pets. If you don’t keep your pets out of sight, guests who receive a nuzzle from your pet’s wet nose will remember the incident, and you may find that these guests respond to your future invitations with “Thank you, but I can’t come.”
Hostess Gift Ideas
It is always a nice idea to take a hostess gift when attending a tea party. It is a gracious way to thank the hostess for planning the party, including you as a guest and to show proper tea party etiquette. Here are a few thoughtful gift suggestions:
Available in many bookstores and stationary specialty stores. These lovely books help coordinate party planning and they double as a memory book for parties given. They include a place to journal your menus, seating arrangements and guest lists.
Tea Cozies of many color schemes and varieties of fabric can be easily found online. Any hostess would love to receive a tea cozy; the perfect accessory for serving tea. Choose one that matches the home decor of the hostess.
A Basket of Goodies
A basket filled with a variety of loose leaf teas makes a grand hostess gift. Choose an English Breakfast tea, green tea, Earl Grey, or Oolong tea to fill the basket.
Crystal Clear Gift
A crystal bowl filled with home-made chocolate truffles is always a special way to present a gift. Chocolate truffle recipes are plentiful online and easy to make. Add a crystal bowl for your hostess will be delighted.
A Good Book
Give your favorite hostess a copy of the book “The Tea Experience”, a wonderful 136 page book with stunning photography and recipes especially for the tea enthusiast. another must-have gift for the aspiring hostess is “Southern Lady – Gracious Tables”. It is a definitive guide to creating stunning tablescapes for any occasion.